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“Discographie Atelier/Discography Workshop” 3.26.09

If I say the Velvet Underground and Nico, Physical Graffiti, or Skeletal Lamping there is a good chance you’ll immediately be able to picture their respective album covers. That’s because once you’ve seen an album cover, it’s hard to separate it from the music inside. Especially if it is a really good album cover.

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As someone who works with art directors and designers on a daily basis, I have a deep appreciation for the amount of conceptual thinking that goes into a making a visual representation of sound. It is an art form in its own right and one that only within the past twenty or thirty years has been given due credit.

Last Wednesday I simultaneously indulged in my two loves, music and art, at Discographie, an art education workshop sponsored by DHC/ART and Art Pop. This three-hour course coincided with the ending of visual and audio artist Chrisitan Marclay’s exhibit REPLAY, and took place one rainy night in Montreal’s Mile End neighborhood. I was one of the lucky thirty who got to participate in this first-come-first-serve atelier, as they say en Français.

Creating our masterpieces

Creating our masterpieces

The group at my table

The group at my table

Listening stations

Listening stations

 

The premise was simple: we were given a record with a blank album cover, and were instructed to listen to the record, and then design our own cover. The true cover would be revealed after we were finished.

I was given a remix single by a band called Edelweiss. The song was “Bring Me Edelweiss.” It was an amazingly dated piece of club dance/acid house that was straight out of the 90s. I kid you not when I say the record was covered with dust and needed to be cleaned, well past its sell-by date. Still, I wasn’t there to judge the music but to use my conceptual skills to create a fitting cover. You can judge the quality of the song for yourself by watching this video:

 

Artist Ken Gregory

Artist Ken Gregory

 

Ken’s creation, side view

Ken’s creation, side view

 

Ken’s creation, front view

Ken’s creation, front view

 

Our group was enthusiastic and set about their tasks with equal parts elementary school fun and artistic seriousness. There was not a lot of chitchat while we worked, and unsurprisingly, the three hours flew by. There were students, middle aged men, hipsters, and one actual and very excellent sound artist from Winnipeg named Ken Gregory.
http://www.cheapmeat.net/kengregoryTop.html

Our supplies

Our supplies

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Regardless of our talent levels, or perhaps because of them, the experience was gratifying. Considering Discographie was originally administered as a three-week workshop for students at University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM), we didn’t do too badly in our three-hour time frame. It should be noted that our art materials, which DHC generously provided for us, were also very basic. With the exception of the artists who brought their own supplies, our third grade art class provisions made for a very primitive look. I make lots of collages as my visual artistic outlet, and this was the first time I had done one sans Exacto knife in about five years.

This reminded me of King Crimson

This reminded me of King Crimson

 

Working hard before the workshop ended

Working hard before the workshop ended

 

When the time was up, we were given the real album covers. Unlike the original art for “Bring Me Edelweiss,” I chose not to pursue the Teutonic theme; I went with more of a Roxy Music On Acid look. However, I was kind of surprised to see one similar detail. I used a small illustration of a cannon with flowers coming out of it on the back cover (not pictured) whereas the original cover had a boy with a gun and flowers. Clearly both the original artist and I were on the same wavelength in feeling the emotional power of the music, choosing to display this with the 60s popular visual symbol of floral weaponry.

All in all, a very good and educational night. I also think this would make for a great evening with friends at home, too. All I need to do is get my hands on some blank album covers.

Edelweiss the original cover

Edelweiss the original cover

 

Edelweiss, my version

Edelweiss, my version

 

A big thanks must go to the sponsors, participants (especially to Ken Gregory), and workshop leader Sarah Watson.

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